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Vegetable polisher proving to be a plus for end product

proving to be a plus for end product

March 31, 2008  By Kathy Birt

A holiday in New Zealand brought
more than an opportunity for relaxation for potato grower Rit
VanNieuwenhuyzen, part owner of Vanco Farms in Mount Albion, P.E.I.

Andrew Barclay, managing director of Wyma Engineering (NZ) Co., spent some time in Mount Albion, P.E.I., demonstrating the Wyma Vegetable Polisher, purchased by Vanco Farms. The machine can wash 500 pounds of vegetables and has different cleaning heads for carrots and potatoes.
Photo by Kathy Birt

A holiday in New Zealand brought more than an opportunity for relaxation for potato grower Rit VanNieuwenhuyzen, part owner of Vanco Farms in Mount Albion, P.E.I.

During his holiday on the South Pacific island, VanNieuwenhuyzen saw a vegetable polisher that struck a chord with him. Upon returning to P.E.I., he called Andrew Barclay, owner of Wyma Engineering Co. of New Zealand, the company that builds the vegetable polisher. After some discussion, VanNieuwenhuyzen ordered the Wyma Vegetable Polisher.


Growing upwards of 500 acres of potatoes, it didn’t take VanNieuwenhuyzen long to make up his mind that the Wyma polisher would be an asset to the farm.

“Having this polisher just means we will have a better product,” said the grower, who manages and owns Vanco Farms along with his brothers Willem and Phillip, plus their father, Peter.

Since 90 per cent of fresh market P.E.I. potatoes are sold in plastic bags, the customer has a lot of opportunity to view the product before buying it. And a lot of opportunity to wonder “Is this potato clean enough for me?”

Andrew Barclay would like to put that question to rest with a variety of vegetable polishing equipment his company has been building for 10 years.

The brushes inside the vegetable washer are suited for potatoes, and will not take the skin off. The heads can be changed to accommodate carrots or parsnips. The machine is made of stainless steel and will not rust.
Photo by Kathy Birt

The New Zealand-based company exports vegetable polishers to about 20 countries, including parts of Eastern Europe and Asia. Vanco Farms’ machine is the first to be sold and put to use in P.E.I. 

“The polisher concept is not new to New Zealand,” explains Barclay, adding Wyma has between 20 to 30 standard product designs with some custom-built as well.

He says the company sold its first machine in North America two years ago to a company in Ontario that packs carrots. “People don’t believe it until they see it,” says Barclay. “It (really) does wash out eyes and indents.”

He explains the polisher can clean dirt from the eyes and stalk indents of potatoes and can also do the same with parsnips and carrots. “The polisher removes the silvery skin from carrots, cleans the eyes and crowns, and also polishes them,” he says.

The drum part of the machine holds 500 pounds of vegetables, which enter via a conveyor built to accommodate the vegetable polisher. Once in operation, the whole drum turns and the brushes inside rotate counter clockwise. “It’s all controlled by an independent motor,” explains Barclay, adding the machine has the capacity to wash 25,000 pounds of vegetables in one hour.

Using anywhere from 4,500 to 13,500 litres of water per hour, the Wyman Vegetable Polisher has spray bars that run the length of the barrel, spraying water continuously over the vegetables as they pass through the drum. A Wyma water recycling system can be purchased and added to the polisher for those interested in conserving water. It’s reported this add-on can help reduce the amount of water used by 80 to 90 per cent.

Barclay says the sale in Ontario was a huge success for the company due to the large quantities of carrots grown in the Bradford Marsh area. “The machine had such a big impact on the market that all the other packing places changed over to our machine the next year,” he recalls.

Barclay owns the business with his wife, Angela, and says the design department of Wyma hire mechanical and electrical engineers who specialize in machine design and manufacturing. “They have to learn our technology and look at how to re-design the machines from our basic concept.”

Being able to pack a cleaner product is a high priority for potato growers on P.E.I., where commodities experience some off-Island competition in the local supermarkets.

With the Wyma Vegetable Polisher, Vanco Farms has a leg up on other growers by assuring a cleaner potato is leaving the farm and getting to the consumer.

Gerald Wesson, public relations coordinator for Sobeys stores, says there is a lot of feedback from customers with reference to clean produce. “We hear comments on how our produce is presented and customers would be concerned if there was dirt on any of our produce,” he said, adding that all produce is cleaned in some manner before it comes into the store. “We require that produce has been washed, or washed and polished. We also do some kind of cleaning or washing before the food is put on the shelf.”

Wesson says he believes the demand for cleaner produce by the customer and the supermarket has precipitated the introduction of vegetable washers/polishers on the market today. “There is a food safety issue and from a customer standpoint, cleanliness is part of that issue.”

And that’s the bottom line!

To help purchase the piece of equipment, Vanco Farms received some financial assistance from the P.E.I. ADAPT Council, which administers the Canadian Adaptation and Rural Development Fund in the province for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

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